Thursday, 29 March 2012

Transcript of "I am a sexy woman, so stop objectifying me!"




So, a perplexed viewer recently messaged me to ask if I'd do a video on sexual objectification, after he stumbled across two internet brouhahas that had him scratching his head.

In the first, an atheist blogger who writes about ethics posted a list of "sexy scientists" who happened to be all female, other than PZ Myers, who was included as a joke. He was immediately taken to task for compiling a sexist list that objectified women based on their looks. My viewer found the level of anger among those chastising this blogger kind of stunning, and noticed that the blogger had to repeatedly correct some commenters' blatant misrepresentations of things he'd said.

But what got my viewer really wondering WTF was how so many of the people offended to their cores by the list came out and admitted, explicitly, that such a list featuring sexy male scientists would not be offensive to them.

He sent another example of this phenomenon he'd found on Jezebel, where many of the women there were shamelessly objectifying male soccer players, and a few other women said things like "If the World Cup featured women ... we'd be pissed about the objectification. This is not any different."

The response was, "Yeah, we'd be pissed about it. But it's not the same. Here's why: In our current universe, men do not have trouble being taken seriously based on their looks or perceived sexiness, nor is their worth in society primarily judged by them. ... it also won't contribute to the overall oppression of men, ... They will not be treated like meat or chattel. Period."

My viewer asked me if I could explain to him what planet these people are living on.

First, I would have to say that these people are living on a planet where they do not know or understand, or WANT to understand, how sex works.

I'm going to quote a favorite sex columnist of mine, Dan Savage, because his ideas about sexual objectification dovetail very neatly with my own:

"Face facts, ladies: people always have and always will objectify the people they're attracted to. Men who wanna fuck women objectify women (at places like Hooters); women who want to fuck men objectify men (at places like Centerfolds). Gay men objectify other men (at places like Ashton Kutcher's asscrack), lesbians objectify other women (at places where Venus and Serena play tennis). The urge to objectify is universal, and so long as it's fairly and respectfully indulged, it's not offensive, not a problem, and not news."

I would also have to say that these people are living on a planet where everyone lacks the hardwiring and software to view women as having any active role in anything other than as passive beings that stuff--including everything concerning sexuality--just happens to. Which is...sigh. I guess I shouldn't say it's bizarre at this point, but more like par for the course.

I've mentioned before that feminism seems to be the biggest objectifier of women out there, and this bullshit provides me with a convenient way to explain my reasoning to the uninitiated. At its heart, objectification is a denial of personal or moral agency. Agency is the idea that the things you do have an affect on the world and on yourself. That your action A will result in outcome B or C or D, that the outcome actually depends on your action. When people are seen as objects, they're seen as incapable of effectual decisions or actions--actions that actually lead to outcomes. It's basically like saying "nothing you do matters, because shit just happens to you".

Feminism posits that objectification of women is a process that originates in men's brains and dicks, rather than partly in women's decisions and actions. They completely remove women as a causal or interactive factor in this phenomenon. A man's decision to objectify a woman is a decision that originates spontaneously within himself, based on nothing but his piggishness.

I mean, to someone like Rebecca Watson, posing in a "Sexy women of skepticism" calendar should have no bearing on how anyone sees or thinks of her. She may be showing tons of cleavage all the time, and cashing in on her sex appeal, but at the same time she lives in a universe where even as she exploits her sexuality, she denies it has, or should have, any effect on anyone, and woe betide the evil man who might fap to still images of her looking coyly into the camera with an acre of boobage on display because he's not acknowledging her as a human being. Perhaps he is allowed to fap to an audio track of her talking about feminism with her voice electronically altered to conceal her gender, but I wouldn't bet on it. Masturbating to thoughts of anyone you do not know on a deep, spiritual or intellectual level is the purest evil there is.

Unless you're a woman rubbing one off to images of David Beckham.

Which brings me to the other half of the sexual objectification equation. You know, the one feminists have never heard of or thought about because they're too busy admiring their own vaginas in a completely non-objectifying way, unlike you disgusting men who are only interested in SEX.

So let's look at the whole picture, based on the criteria of sexual attractiveness with respect to men and women, and the intellectual dishonesty in people like the commenters at common sense atheism and jezebel.

Women spend hours a day sometimes turning themselves into beautiful and sexy objects. They wear high heels because small feet correlate with high estrogen levels and fertility, and feet look smaller in high heels. Legs also look longer, which correlates with youth, and because those high heels cause the lower back to arch they make a woman's bum look more alluring. Women wear lipstick because women's lips are naturally darker and fuller than mens to mimic women's genitals and lipstick enhances that effect. They dye their hair to hide greys and use wrinkle creams that give the illusion of youth, and agonize over acne because clear skin indicates health and good genes to potential mates.

They may not do any of this consciously knowing why it works, but they do it because they know it's sexy.

And they're MORE likely to do all of these things when they go out in the world where there are LOTS of men to attract, and then live in sweat-pants and yesterday's make-up around their significant other (the man they supposedly want to be attractive to) or when they're alone at home. So, they are indeed doing it for the male attention, and not to just "feel" sexy. It's basically like putting out a broadcast, but hoping only the most fit and acceptable guys will receive and act on the signal.

This is an action, ladies. And it results in an outcome. The outcome is that you are now MORE sexually attractive to men you don't know and who don't know shit about you as a person, and contrary to what you'd like to believe, that IS the outcome you were going for.

And the retarded idea that men aren't objectified and judged based on sexual criteria...it just shows feminists have NEVER been able to put themselves in men's experience, or even understand how their own brains work.

What are the "sexy poses" for women? The ones that show superficial indications of qualities men find attractive--poses that emphasize curves (fertility and child-bearing capability), facial expressions that are coy or coquettish (pleasant disposition), angles that display beauty (good genes), clear skin (health), and long legs (youth). The nakeder the better, because a man's visually detectable criteria for what is sexually attractive in women is based on her body.

What are the "sexy poses" for men? Action poses. Strength and power poses. Work poses. Rebellious or defiant poses. And if those men are all the way naked, then you can't see that they can afford that Hugo Boss suit, or what kind of work they do, or whether they're in some kind of uniform, or what kind of social status they have, can you?

Men are sexy to women because of what they can bring in the way of protection, social status or resources. The poses reflect that, and just because they are all based on what men can do or have or can get or earn doesn't mean they aren't objectifying, and it DOES NOT mean that men aren't judged based on those visual criteria. I read once that a woman decides within five seconds of looking at a man whether she wants to get to know him better, and a lot of the time the decision is based on things like the quality of his shoes rather than how nice his smile is.

And while it might suck to be objectified based on your looks when your looks aren't something you can easily change, it must also suck to be objectified based on how much you bring to the table in performance standards--essentially, objectified based on your utility to a given woman.

Now, you don't hear the kind of moaning and caterwauling over the sexual objectification of men that we ALWAYS seem to hear over the slightest hint of the sexual objectification of women. And the difference not that men have male privilege--it's that men who are UNable to be seen as sexual objects by women because they fail to meet the criteria are seen as losing out, while women who ARE objectified usually feel threatened.

And THAT can be attributed to the differing biological costs and benefits of sex depending on whether you're a man or a woman. Now, for the sake of argument, let's just pretend that we're living 20,000 years ago, before the pill and abortion and slutwalks and the sexual revolution and all that, because 20,000 years ago is the environment our instincts think we're living in.

Unwanted sexual attention--that is, sub-par men or men who haven't been vetted ogling a woman--feels threatening to a woman because the biological cost (pregnancy) of that attraction carried too far (rape) is extremely high.

Getting pregnant by a sub-par man was a biological disaster for a woman. She'd waste one of her finite, timed shots at the reproductive target, risk her health and life, and might have 4 years of decreased fertility from breastfeeding before she'd be able to try again, all of it thrown away on a sub-par child, sired by a man who at the very least had not proven to her in advance that he'd stick around and help her raise it.

That's a HUGE set of risks and costs, so *unwanted* sexual attention from a man she feels doesn't measure up makes her uneasy. But she can't get any sexual attention at all, even from the men she does want, unless she presents herself as a sexually attractive woman, can she? So when she's applying all that make-up and pulling on that snug t-shirt, she's instinctively (but maybe not consciously) aware of why she's doing it--to be attractive to an awesome guy, which will make her feel sexy--but when non-awesome or non-vetted men express unwanted or premature interest in her, she's made uncomfortable and she buries the agent/object conflict under an illogical tangle of rationalization wherein she deems men should NOT objectify her even when men objectifying her was her goal, and wherein none of it has anything to do with HER or anything she is or does--it's all the fault of those men and the dicks they're led around by.

This is one of the reasons why male behavior around women was always bound by strict rules of courtesy, and why even as recently as my grandfather's time, a man could get his lights punched out for offending a woman by using vulgar language in her presence. And it's why women are still the group with the most power to control discourse and rules of politeness--they set the limits of what is acceptable speech and behavior, and pretty much everyone caters to their lowest common denominator of comfort level.

Because of those female costs and risks, men have to compete and perform in order to get a shot at reproducing. But 20,000 years ago, if HE had sex with a sub-par female he wouldn't be interested in hanging out with long term, he lost nothing but a few million sperm that regenerate constantly. He could--at least until recently--just walk away, no loss no foul, and try again with someone better the moment he could spring another boner.

And for him, being objectified is a GOOD thing. He has to compete for females, remember. Being objectified is success, and success makes him a winner, even if he doesn't end up having sex with any of the women making eyes at him across the cave.

So he doesn't make a big deal about being found sexy. Being found sexy by many woman costs him nothing, and can only pay off more the more women objectify him, because then HE might actually get to have his pick of women rather than the other way around. And none of this means that men want sex all the time, or from many different women, or anything like that. It just means they aren't going to have that visceral, instinctive uneasiness around an appreciative gaze from a woman they don't know.

And even if he has no interest in women or sex or reproducing, the things that make him a sexy object are things that will make his life awesome as an individual--money, self-sufficiency, respect, physical fitness and the admiration of others. Even if he doesn't EVER want sex, any of women's sexual criteria he meets are of benefit to him as an individual. Up until very recently in our social and legal evolution, he did not face the conflict that what makes him valuable sexually is also a HUGE potentially life-ruining or even fatal liability if his sexual judgement led him astray, or if a woman took advantage of him.

Women have always had ALL the power in the sexual equation, but up until an eyeblink ago it was a power that could utterly destroy them if they weren't able to exercise total control over it, and even if they don't consciously understand that, their instincts do. Men have always had to earn their sexual power, and it was a power that, once they had it, cost them nothing. It was the getting it that used to cost them a fuck-ton--often their lives as they performed their way into proving themselves valuable enough to lease a woman's uterus.

Now what really gets me is how completely oblivious most feminists are to things like this, how they will deny the agency women exercise when they objectify themselves by shifting all the onus onto men to effectively gouge their own metaphorical eyes out or else they're being pigs, rather than acknowledging the part women play in the game of sexual attraction. And the cognitive dissonance of saying something like "men will not be treated like meat. Period," EVEN WHILE THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT MEN LIKE THEY'RE PIECES OF MEAT.

It gets me that instead of understanding that their problem with the problem of sexual objectification of women originates in instincts that served women in the fucking cave but have nothing to do with the social, legal, technological or economic realities of today, feminists will perform the pathetic intellectual gymnastics required to blame their own double standards on the collective delusion of Male Privilege so they don't have to admit that women are instinctively cautious about sex and men instinctively cavalier about it.

And what I find most hilarious is the denial that women objectify men based on criteria they can determine with their eyes alone--all the cues and signals so obvious in sexy images of men that showcase their utility to women, and that can be as simple as the way he's standing when the shutter clicks.

If women are objectified as ornaments, then men are objectified as appliances. And the difference between an ornament and an appliance is that ornaments are coveted objects prone to theft by the unworthy, while appliances that no one wants get hauled to the dump. A woman objectified by the "wrong man" feels uneasy because once upon a time, her reproductive costs and risks could cost her everything, while a man objectified by women was actually deferring his disposability.

And I can even see that little nugget of truth in the lament of a 50 year old attractive businesswoman who laments that it's been ages since a strange man gave her "the look". “Leering hasn't happened in years,” she says wistfully. Of visiting Italy 20 years ago with friends, she says, “we were furious that the Italian men pinched your bum. When we went back, in our early 40s, we were furious that no one was pinching our bums.” She's now discovering what men understand right from the get-go--that being objectified by others is proof of your market value, which is why young women go to such lengths to make themselves beautiful even as they scold the men who dare to notice.

And though none of this instinctive bullshit, as I've presented it, can be changed on the fundamental level of limbic hardwiring, I really think knowing what the fuck we're dealing with here, and why it exists, is the first step to dealing with the issue. If women WANT to be seen as sexual agents in this age where most of the reproductive risks and costs to them have been mitigated by modern technology, they have to stop denying they have sexual agency, and they really need to grow a pair and talk themselves out of behaving like they live in the goddam victorian age, where women were so at the mercy of their biological vulnerability that a double-entendre from the wrong man could earn him a beating.

It might come as a shock to a lot of people, but WE DON'T LIVE THERE ANYMORE. In this reality, in this environment, with women's fertility on total lock-down if they so desire, and men facing legally enforceable $100,000 baby mortgages when they have an "oops", our instincts are actually diametrically opposed to our current relative risks and costs.

And all this female kvetching over a few appreciative glances or the thought that a guy you wouldn't have anything to do with might be jerking one off with an image of your tits in his mind, really needs to stop.

If feminism wants women to be taken seriously as men's equals, then it's women who are going to have to do the adjusting for a change. And that means not calling for her smelling salts whenever some guy tells her she's pretty.



9 comments:

  1. I mostly agree with this essay. Because I enjoy gender-bending and playing with gender roles, I am very aware of the dichotomy of appearance vs. performance, and I use my knowledge of this to my advantage. In a work situation, I dress soft butch/tomboy. I take a wide stance with my arms crossed to show I mean business and have authority. I speak in a low tone, and have trained myself not to let my voice lilt upward (as many women do) so that all of my statements sound like questions, or as though I'm not sure of myself.

    And it works. Performing gender in a way that shows I am there for business (as opposed to sex) makes people much more likely to take me seriously. I have been promoted quickly and given authority over entire teams by projecting that I am there for performance.

    There have been outliers of course. Because I look somewhat femme even in a very tomboyish and conservative outfit, I have been harassed by men in the workplace. One of the situations was quote devastating – I was entry level, and dressing very tomboyish, and my boss, who was 15 years my senior, came onto me constantly and told me I should work as a stripper or phone sex operator. (He also used the f-word and the n-word on the reg, including in front of me and his black male employee, so I think he was just generally a bigot who couldn't act in a professional fashion.)

    More recently, I had a male co-worker (lower in rank, technically, but over 20 years my senior) come onto me. He did it in a more subtle way, but it was still disconcerting. He was going through a divorce, and kept sort of indicating that I was making things difficult and confusing for him and his departing wife, by virtue of being around. So I did the logical thing, which was to pull away from him, put distance between us, only meet with him with other employees present, and stop being warm and friendly, since that could be mistaken for flirting.

    I think women need to be aware of the power dynamic in a workplace, and be prepared to put distance between themselves and an employee who is showing non-reciprocal interest. Same deal for men, gay or straight – as I know this does happen. (I had a male supervisor who pinched men on the butt, believe it or not.)

    But what I don't get is when young feminists dress super-sexy, go out to the club, and then get angry when men talk to them. They are dressing in a way that says "Look at me." And then they are angry that someone is looking at them. My husband and I observed this when he approached a young woman at a club a couple months ago. She and her female friend were dressed in skimpy club clothing and were doing the "fake lesbian" display. (We knew they were not together because they'd break apart and go hit on men.) The young lady acted horrified that my husband would dare SPEAK to her. Yes, he is older, but he looks 25, and he is very attractive. I don't understand why it was so gross. Obviously, the fake lesbian act she and her friend were putting on was also for male attention. She got what she wanted, but I guess since it came from an older guy, or a guy who wasn't her type, it was "disgusting."

    As a queer woman, I have been similarly informed that it's not ok to look at women in the club, and also, that my tastes are not politically correct. I like women like the Suicide Girls, Portia DeRossi, Angie Jolie, Cathryn Zeta-Jones, etc. I am supposed to only be turned on my "women-safe" porn, which usually involves a pair of unshaven, not-too-attractive women going at it in a "natural" setting like the floor of a barn or a meadow or whatever. No thank you.

    When I go to the lesbian bar, I look at the floor or keep my eyes straight ahead. I do not want to offend any woman there by looking at her or hitting on her just in case I am not "the right type of woman" and I am bothering her by showing interest.

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  2. Also, sorry for the typos. My English spelling is not too good.

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  3. GWW, I am going to mess with your head today.
    Men hate woman’s body by crackpot Taslima Nasreen. Please dont sample any more posts from her blog if you want to stay sane.

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    Replies
    1. Wow. I can't believe she'd never heard of short hair or curly hair fetishes before.

      I'd heard of those before I hit puberty.

      Delete
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  7. Great points! I have been mulling over what exactly strikes me as wrong about the difference between male and female objectification in mainstream US culture, and stumbling across this post really helped me clarify why the standard feminist response seems hollow. I want some clarification around one specific point though. If male objectification celebrates his success at procuring resources, strength, and health, can we re-frame female objectification in the same light? The practices of displaying female sexual attractiveness seem counter to our health and wellbeing - high heels are terrible for our backs and feet, excessive thinness can me harmful to our bones and heart, many cosmetics are toxic in the long term, etc. I understand that these practices are shortcuts to signify something else that may or may not be true about us (youth, for example), but even as a young, healthy, and intelligent woman I'm expected to participate in portraying those qualities about myself in harmful ways?

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